Recently, Mediaite posted screen shots captured by a Twitter user who goes by the name of Not a Bot that seemingly showed several homophobic comments made on a now defunct weblog by MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid. Reid replied that her weblog had been hacked and several articles modified by unknown parties. The media has responded by digging up an apology Reid made late last year about homophobic comments she had made in the past, which seemingly contradicts her claim of being hacked.
I’m not sure when I’ll be able to return to my search, but I hope to sometime in the near future. I’m trying to find a Lacey Smith, though he’s long been dead and the only event of any note in his life that I can see is he shot and killed Polk Grimes the first of February 1, 1870 in a town called Jollification.
I discovered Lacey Smith by accident when I was looking for Missouri mills and discovered the Jolly Mill. Jolly, short for Jollification; so named, as the good rumor goes, but not fact as the stuffier insist, because of the whiskey mill that formed the heart of this small but thriving community nestled against a limestone hill and surrounded by good corn growing land.
The town died, oh long ago, when the train came through…elsewhere. At its time though, it was something, but that was before the Union soldiers burned the town down during the Civil war, it is said though I can’t find any real record of the Union army actually setting fire to the town. The Union soldiers came through several times, killed people, but no one ever mentioned about Sargent Whatsit lighting a match and saying to the troops, “Watch this town light up like the 4th of July, boys!” That’s what I would have said.
The mill still stands, bought by people in the county and turned into a park with picnic tables and such. They also recreated the town from descriptions, and moved a one room school house to the site. I went out there in early fall to take photos and check out the place where Lacey Smith shot Polk Grimes, but was a bit disappointed. Oh the mill is nice and the school is quaint, but across the pond are homes of people wealthy enough so that no matter how hard you looked, you couldn’t see a thing other than “No trespassing”. The sun was too hot for good photos, but I did enjoy the turtles on the logs and a white heron that seemed as curious about me as I was about him.
He walked in the water on the opposite side of the pond from me, until I got to the mill and went out as far as I could on the rocks near the building and he went out on the rocks across from me and we just stared at each other until he finally decided I wasn’t all that interesting and took off: long skinny black legs pulled straight back, body like a bullet in flight.
The caretaker and her two young children were at the faux village; she was mowing and the kids were playing. I think I asked something, not sure what, and she was polite but not over friendly. I was going to ask where the Grimes family cemetery was, to see where Polk was buried, but felt uncomfortable.
There was old Baptist church with a cemetery on the road to the Mill, so I made do with it. I stopped on the way back and walked among the stones, trying to see if Lacey was among them (“…strung up for killing that poor boy, Polk…”). No such luck. I did find one Grimes, by marriage only though. I wondered that she was buried with her family rather than her husband.
I liked the old church. It reminded of the story–I think it was in “Let us Now Praise Famous Men”, by James Agee and Walker Evans–about them stopping by a plain white back country church alongside a dusty road in the south, when a young black couple came walking by. I can remember the words, about the couple walking side by side only their hips touching; the clean white of their clothes; not saying a word–I wish I could write like this, where you still see the picture the words formed long after you forgot where you read them.
No young black couple that day, but a couple of farm dogs came towards me out of one of the fields of uncut hay. They were silent, just a determined march through the field: one mottled black, white, and brown, the other, one of those dogs with light blue eyes. I measured my distance to the car in heart beats; I’ve always been afraid of the loose dogs along the Missouri back roads. I walked, did not run, to the car but only breathed when I was inside. Turning around, I saw the dogs cross the road behind me, not once looking my way, just continuing the same determined, silent march into the next field.
Of the Grimes, James P. “Polk” Grimes’ father was William Grimes who himself was murdered in 1878. The man who murdered him, by the name of Connor or O’Connor was tried once, convicted, and then tried again and convicted again. I figured this had something to do with his lawyers because Goodspeed’s historian wrote about how they “…worked the law through all its many crevices.”
William’s father was Gainsford Grimes from England who came over to America just in time to fight with George Washington. After having done so, Mr. Grimes returned to England after the war to take a bride, a Nancy Poe. A “…member of the celebrated Poe family, who about this time immigrated to America. This also according to Goodspeed’s 1888 History of Newton County.
Anyway, among Nancy Poe’s famous relatives was Aaron Poe, the ‘celebrated indian fighter’. It took the longest time before I decided to try a variation on the name to realize that the historian got the name wrong; he meant AndrewPoe. Andrew was a celebrated indian fighter in the Ohio valley area, and ended up having another son who also became a famous indian fighter. Whether Andrew and Nancy were related to that other famous Poe, Edgar Allen, is difficult to say; their ancestors all came from England about the same time. Cousins, let’s make them cousins. Heck, yeah that works. History doesn’t have to be factual, only interesting. You wait, and I’ll work Jesse James into this, too.
There’s an interesting story behind the Goodspeed histories. Goodspeed was a small publishing house in the 1800’s that published complete histories of several midwestern and southern counties. I find the one from Newton county to be enormously entertaining. For instance, from the “crime” section:
Horace Tongue, who shot and killed Samuel Rice, at Neosho, in the Spring of 1856, was tried, but acquitted, as the murdered man interfered in his family.
Reece Crabtree was wounded near Pilot Grove by Confederates, but while en route to Neosho, died. Immediately after, bushwhackers arrived to kill him outright, but, finding him dead, departed.
John C. Moss, who resided five miles south of Joplin, believed himself to be Christ in the summer of 1881, and was placed in jail by Sherriff McElhaney. At the time Hall, another insane man confined there, hearing the yells of Moss, said to the latter: “Get up from there and stop your howlin’; I believe you are crazy anyhow.” It was this Hall, on being led to a spring, would play in the water like a duck.
A dead body, supposed to be that of Jesse James, was found by miners eight miles south of Joplin, in November, 1879.
The same time Lacey Smith killed Polk Grimes, the James gang were riding the lands of Missouri robbing banks and avenging the Confederacy; joining with other so-called Bushwhackers–former confederate soldiers unhappy at the outcome of the war. Missouri probably has more caves than almost any where else, and every one of them harbored a bushwhacker at some point. But that leads us back to the day when Lacey Smith shot and killed Polk Grimes.
Polk was only 25 and Smith not much older, but why the one shot another I don’t know. When I go to Columbus and look through the old newspaper archives, maybe I’ll find out the whys and wherefores. “Lacey Smith killed Polk Grimes for messin’ with his family”, or some such thing. The Grimes served in the Confederacy, and some say that Newton county had its own civil war; that brother killing brother wasn’t so far off. Maybe Smith was a Union sympathizer but if so, he should have been the dead one because there was no sympathy for the Union in Jollification–after all, they did burn down the town. Not the Mill, though.
On February 10, ten days after Lacey Smith shot and killed James P. “Polk” Grimes, the Neosho Times reported that Smith was tried and committed for action by the grand jury by one Wolcott and Smith Esquire, (we’re assuming no relation to the accused). Two guards were assigned to take him to Neosho, but between Jolly and Neosho, all three disappeared. Several days later, the papers the guards were carrying showed up, folded neat as a pin and laid on the porch of Grave’s & Co, a store co-operative in Neosho.
You see now? It was interesting to read about the three going missing, but people go missing all the time and back in those days and in that area, a lot of people went missing and died, or just plain died. But it was the papers, folded up and left on the store’s porch–now that just catches at you.
Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep,
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
Above his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green,
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by men and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
The Kraken — Albert, Lord Tennyson
The Giant Squid
The next time you sink your teeth into some calimari think of this: The giant squid has been measured to a length of 60 feet, and weighs in the neighborhood of between 1 and 2 tons. It has eight arms, each lined with two rows of suckers. The giant squid also has the largest eyes of any known creature, over a foot in diameter.
If the giant squid is like its smaller cousins, it is a predator. To make the giant squid an ideal predator, its suckers are ringed with a hard, jagged edge, resembling teeth, in order to better enable the squid to hold onto its prey. Additionally, two longer tentacles are also used to help move the prey to the large, sharp parrot-like beak.
Needless to say, you will not sink your teeth into this creature without a fight.
The Stuff of Legends
I looked in my turn, and could not repress a gesture of disgust. Before my eyes was a horrible monster worthy to figure in the legends of the marvelous. It was an immense cuttlefish, being eight yards long. It swam crossways in the direction of the Nautilus with great speed, watching us with its enormous staring green eyes.
So says the Naturalist, in the Jules Vern classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 18. Though this book is a work of fiction, the squid encounter that Vern wrote about was based on fact, or at least a story that Vern heard about at the time. The story states that a French naval ship was attacked by a giant squid in 18611.
Since earliest times, there have been legends of sea serpents and large, many-armed creatures attacking boats. One of the fiercest creatures was the legendary beast known as the Kraken.
Now, modern belief is that the kraken was a giant squid and that the size of the creature has grown through numerous re-tellings of ancient stories; from creatures of 50 feet to creatures the size of islands.
A Norwegian Bishop, one Erik Ludvigsen Pontoppidan, wrote in his journals about the Kraken and mentions the size of the creature as being one and one-half miles long 3! More recently, another eyewitness account of the size of the giant squid is given by an A.G. Starkey, who was stationed on a British trawler in World War. Starkey tells of being on deck in the evening when he noticed a light in the water next to the boat. As he tells it, “As I gazed, fascinated, a circle of green light glowed in my area of illumination. This green unwinking orb I suddenly realized was an eye. The surface of the water undulated with some strange disturbance. Gradually I realized that I was gazing at almost point-black range at a huge squid.”
According to the Starkey account, he walked along the boat, measuring the giant quid and realized that it was as long as the boat he was on. It is at this point that accounts may differ. According to a Discovery Channel special on the Giant Squid (telecast July 31, at 8:00 pm in a show titled “X Creatures”), the boat Starkey was on measured 60 feet. According to the account given in the Museum of Unnatural Mystery4, where I pulled the quote, the boat measured 175 feet!
Eyewitness accounts of the size of the giant squid are matched by tales of squid behavior, specifically stories of squids attacking ships.
As said earlier, Jules Verne based his squid fight in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on an eyewitness account of a giant squid attacking a French naval ship1. Another account of a giant squid attacking a ship is given in the logs of the Brunswick, a Norwegian Trawler. In the logs an account is given of a giant squid attacking this large ship three different times, before the squid finally slid into the ship’s propellers and was killed.
A third account tells of nuclear submarine losing the use of its sonar equipment on the ship’s maiden voyage. When the submarine returned to port, the Navy found that the covering on the Sonar had been torn lose and that hooks remained in the material, hooks from a giant squid.
Other accounts tell of giant squid grabbing men from the waters as ships were sunk in World War I and II, and also of the giant squid attacking small fishing boats. Two South African lighthouse workers reported in 1966 about seeing a giant squid wrapped around a baby whale, in a ferocious fight, with the baby whale surfacing and being pulled back under before it finally stopped rising to the surface4
So, are there giant squid lurking off our coasts that reach a size of 150 feet and that pull folks off boats? Well, behind every tale, there is a seed of truth, and now it’s time to take a look at what we do know about the giant squid.
What We Think We Know
Amid rumor and scant eyewitness accounts, we have little knowledge of the giant squid and its behavior. Giant squid have washed up on shore sporadically so we have had a chance to examine dead specimens. We also know that the giant squid forms part of the diet for toothed whales such as the sperm whale. Outside of that, though, we have little knowledge of these of the largest known invertebrate. We have never successfully viewed the giant squid in its natural environment, and we have never had a chance to examine a living specimen. But what we do know makes this an incredibly interesting creature.
First of all, when discussing giant squid, most folks are discussing the squid known as Architeuthis Dux. There are other large species of squid, some of which have been seen in the wild. For instance, the Navy provides an audio account of an encounter between a robotic research submersible and a variety of squid known as Moroteuthis. In the account, the squid was six feet in length5. Compared to its larger cousin, though, Moroteuthis is pretty small: Architeuthis Dux, or the Giant Squid by its popular name, has been measured at close to 60 feet in length.
The first recorded physical record of the giant squid was made by a Reverend Moses Harvey in Newfoundland, based on a dead giant squid that had been caught by local fishermen. Dead giant squid had been washed up on shore before, but this was the first time a person had taken samples of the squid, and made scientific observations of the creature — due to the foresight demonstrated by Rev. Harvey as he sent the creature to Yale University for study6.
Since that time, more creatures have been washed on shore or been pulled up, dead, in fishing nets. However, no live giant squid has been captured, nor has one been seen in its native element. Most of what is known about giant squid has been derived from these specimens and from the remains of giant squid specimens found in the stomachs of whales, primarily sperm whales.
Consider the giant squid: the largest size of the giant squid is between 60-70 feet as determined from pieces of the creatures that have been found7. It should weigh in at close to 1 to 2 tons. In addition to its large size, the giant squid also has the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, with each larger than your typical dinner plate!
The giant squid’s territory is in the depths of the ocean, up to 3000 feet below the surface of the ocean, in a world that is as foreign and deadly to us as is the vacuum of space8. It, just like other squid, does not live on the ocean floor, as an octopus does, but lives, instead, between the surface and the bottom, a state easily maintained by its natural buoyancy.
In addition to its size and habitat, the giant squid’s physical makeup also differs from the squid normally consumed by people: instead of sodium chloride in its system, biologists have found ammonium chloride. Snacking on Architeuthis would be similar to sucking on a bottle of your favorite ammonia floor cleaner, without the lemon scent. Nummy.
Other than these small differences, the giant squid is similar to other species of squid. It has a mantle, which is where its internal organs are found. Along the length of the mantle is a funnel, used for expelling waste, water, and for locomotion10 — the squid ejects water through the funnel to push it along the water.
The giant squid has eight arms, each containing several suckers; to make the suckers even more interesting, the edges of the suckers have a jagged set of “teeth”11 to help the squid grasp prey.
The giant squid also has two longer feeding tentacles used to push food into the squid’s mouth, which resembles a parrot’s beak. A large parrot. A large beak. It also can squirt ink to confuse predators, matching its smaller cousins capability 12.
Other than these facts about the squid’s physical makeup, little is known about how the squid acts in its environment, a void that scientists have been trying to fill for the last several years.
In Search of…
There have been numerous attempts to study giant squid in its natural environment. Two expeditions have been sent to Kaikoura Canyon, off of New Zealand, the first in 199713, and the second of which occurred in February and March of 199914. Both of these expeditions were under the leadership of Dr. Clyde Roper from the Smithsonian Museum, probably the world’s leading expert on the giant squid. He is also one of the few people to actually taste a sample of giant squid, and it is from his reaction that I pull my “ammonia without the lemon scent” taste description.
The Kairkoura Canyon is considered a favorable spot for finding the giant squid because several specimens have been found by fishermen in the area, and sperm whales also like to hunt in the area — a good indication as sperm whales feed on giant squid.
While neither expedition was able to capture images of the giant squid, neither trip was considered a failure due to the other information the scientists were able to find, and the observations they were able to make. In addition, during the trip in 1999, Dr. Roper was able to examine a captured, dead giant squid that was in very good shape, something that doesn’t always happen when squid are caught up in fishing nets as the creatures are very fragile.
Using manned submersibles isn’t the only approach to filming giant squids. Another approach used whales, with scientists attaching video cameras to whales before they begin their hunting dives. I have seen these films, and though they haven’t, yet, been successful (the cameras tend to get knocked off by other whales), this approach is an innovative effort17.
Robotic submersibles have also been used to try and capture images of the giant squid, including the MIT Sea Grant Autonomous underwater robot16. Unfortunately, all of these efforts have not succeeded in filming an adult giant squid in its natural habitat.
However, folks like Dr. Roper aren’t giving up in their efforts. Dr. Roper is already talking about an expedition back to Kairkoura in the Spring of 2000.
Unfortunately, the 2000 expedition wasn’t successful.
So What About the Attacks?
One major question that remains about the giant squid is its behavior; specifically, would the giant squid attack boats and people. The more I learn about this creature, the more I wonder whether the giant squid was attacking boats and people as food sources — or perhaps just trying to find a ride home.
The giant squid inhabits that nether region of the ocean that is hundreds to thousands of feet below the surface but not at the bottom of the ocean. Its entire physical makeup is suited specifically to this environment. The main reason that the giant squid has been found dead and washed up on shore is most likely because of clashing ocean streams, cold water meeting warm water.
The giant squid lives in cold water that can get trapped above a layer of warm water. This pushes the poor creature to the surface. The squid’s natural buoyancy makes it difficult for it to sink beneath this warm water, and I imagine the hostile surface area weakens the giant squid to a point of desperation. So, what’s a good way to return to the depths? Why, hitch a ride on one creature it knows dives to the depths: whales. And since boats can look like whales…
Now, attacking a submarine as a food source makes a bit more sense, as these craft are much closer to the giant squid’s preferred environment than a boat on the surface of the water. However, a submarine would strongly resemble a whale, a creature the squid knows it can’t beat, so it’s hard for me to believe that the squid would attack a naval submarine because it considers it “food”.
As for giant squids attacking a whale, a creature the same size as it but weighing many, many times more than the squid — again, this doesn’t make sense unless the squid is desperately hungry. We know, though, that a giant squid defends itself from the feeding whale, which is why there are squid sucker scars found on whales, but the giant squid wouldn’t have a chance against an adult whale. However, it might have a fighting chance against a smaller, juvenile whale, which would explain the sighting of a young whale fighting with the squid, and the squid shown at the surface mentioned by the lighthouse men earlier — the giant squid was still wrapped around the young whale in combat, and the whale dragged the creature to the surface. Going back to my original hypothesis about why a giant squid would grab a boat, the giant squid attached to the young whale is not going to let go when it’s on the surface. Hence, the look of a battle.
Okay, so my guess is just that, a guess, and most likely not an accurate guess at that. But I can’t help thinking its a better interpretation of the boat attacks then the giant squid leaving its perfect little world to venture to the surface, an almost guaranteed act of death for the squid, just to nosh on a tasty new takeout.
The truth of giant squid behavior is out there, waiting for folks like Dr. Roper to find.
Updated for 2004
The majority of giant squid research is moving, more and more, to Australia and New Zealand. In particular, one of the leading researchers now is Dr. Stephen O’Shea at Auckland University of Technology.
O’Shea was also the one to tentatively identify the new species of giant squid discovered recently (“giant squid” is really a category of squid, rather than any one species), calling it Colossal Squid, or by its scientific name, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.
The Colossal is an amazing find, and may actually be the squid at the root of so many stories we hear. However, we’ll never know for sure until we can see it, as well as its cousin, Architeuthis, alive, adult, and in their native habitat.
So even now, the search continues…
The Giant Squid is found
Cephalopod enthusiasts were ecstatic when an excellent video of a giant squid was made after great effort.
Photo of Squid, (c) National Resource Center for Cephalopods2
Don’t just read about the Kraken — hear Chris Hall recite the famous Tennyson poem at the BBC Nature web site.
1 The Smithsonian has an article of Dr. Clyde Roper that discusses, among other things, the french battle with a giant squid in 1861.
2 Image from National Resource Center for Cephalopods.
3 The tale of the Norwegian Bishop and the mile wide kracken comes from the Museum of Unnatural Mystery’s Kraken page.
Image of Kraken from Museum of Unnatural Mystery3
4 Read accounts of the giant squid at the Museum of Unnatural Mystery’s Giant Squid page.
8 Check out the How Deep can they go page at Ocean Planet — very well done!
Early illustration of giant squid, by Professor A.E. Verrill of Yale, from Ocean Planet6.
10> Again from the RobotZoo, the mechanics of funnel locomotion.
11 Photo of sucker teeth from the Ocean Planet.
12 See a video of a squid using its ink defense at the Ocean Planet.
13 Read about the 1997 Expedition to Kaikoura, at the National Geographic Web site.
14 Read about the 1999 Expedition to Kaikoura at Ocean Planet/Smithsonian.
15 A day in the logs of the second Kaikoura expedition, Setting up for a dive.
16 Discussion of the use of the MIT Sea Grant underwater robot at MIT.
17 Read an article on the use of Whales to film giant squid.
Photo of submersible used to search for giant squid in 1999 expedition, NIWA/NASA15.
Also check out the The Octopus News Magazine Online.